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Slow Coaches Helping No-One
Spain's Raquel Carriedo may have won the Compaq Open in Sweden last week, but it was French rookie Karine Icher who was the focus of attention after a slow play penalty contributed to her having to settle for second best

Naturally, there were mixed sentiments when the tournament reached a conclusion, with Icher inconsolable as her tears of disappointment flowed as liberally as the raindrops overhead.

It was a shame, and slightly cruel, that she was slapped the penalty when she was two shots ahead and playing the 11th hole in the final round.

But she had been warned the previous evening about her tardy pace and, again, tournament director Ian Randell had told Icher and Gustafson to get a move on after they had fallen behind around the turn on the Sunday.

The problem with Icher - and it has been notable all season - is that her caddie, compatriot Jean Michel Neuville, plays an awfully important part in her preparation for every shot.

She claims he is not her coach, but he does offer much advice on the practice range, while on the course he lines her up on every shot.

And I mean every shot - even a tap-in putt. So while it might be good for her golf, it is all boringly tedious for the spectators. It is little wonder that rounds are stretching to five hours plus.

The hope is that the high profile one shot penalty fine - Icher lost by a shot to Carriedo after a final round 76 - will have suitable effect on the rest of the season. Not that Icher sounded too ready to accept much blame.

'There were a lot of people around on the final day and they were making a lot of noise,' said the 22-year-old.

'I know I am not very fast, but I do think it was unfair.'

As for Scotland's Dale Reid, she was one who had little sympathy for the youngster. She calls the lining-up habit 'glorified cheating' and, rightly, points out that this is much more common in the women's game than in the men's.

She blames the American Hall of Famer, Juli Inkster, for introducing the habit.

'Her husband M.Brian, who was also her coach, used to caddie for her, and they started the practice years ago,' said Europe's Solheim Cup Captain.

'Now a lot of the women are doing it. I definitely think it should be banned.

'I don't want to spend six hours on a golf course and I'm sure the spectators become absolutely fed up having to watch someone go through such long pre-shot routines.'

The trouble is that it seems to be getting worse. There may be a fine new crop of young talent on the Evian European Tour this year, but none of them are likely to earn the name of Speedy Gonzales.

More like slow coach with caddie in tow. Reid reckons that caddies are becoming far too influential - some wanting to be stars in their own right. She reckons they should do little more than work out the yardages, carry the clubs and be around with an umbrella when the weather gets tough.

She might have added of course, that they should also be able to count to 14 - an aspect that Ian Woosnam's bagman, Miles Byrne, so disastrously managed to fail to do at the Open.

But Jean-Michel's assistance to Karine was another costly caddie error and everyone will be watching and wondering if they change the routine. If they don't, then the powers that be must continue to take action.

©    16 - AUGUST 2001

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